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Putting My Affairs In Order

The events of the last two months have given me both pause and some time to think. I’m going to set down some things here, just in case someone might find them to be useful later.

I am glad I’m still alive after New Years. Get the 24 hour flu, sleep for 36, miss a couple of gabapentin doses, and you might wake up not quite dead, which is what happened to me. The first time I ever heard the words “mitral valve prolapse” were in late 2014. It’s not clear if this is genetic or a Lyme effect. Medication and exercise fixed having two thirds of the normal eject fraction and the obvious *tock* with every beat is gone.

I learned another medical phrase over the holiday – “paroxysmal atrial tachycardia”. Your heart gives up on beating, settles for aggressively fluttering, and blood pressure plummets. Mine was 81/62 half an hour after I literally dragged myself across my room to get something to control my heart rate in me.

I stopped fearing death a decade ago, got into the business of observing careful if it seemed to be creeping up on me, and this episode had a gleaming silver lining. “You’ve got PAT, that’s not a diagnosis, it’s a symptom, but one you can treat aggressively. Do you have magnesium at home?”

I admitted to keeping a bit of Doctor’s Best around the house, and seven weeks later I’ve settled into about 2.5x the daily recommended amount. Which has erased most of the post-Lyme stuff that’s dogged me for the last decade.

So I got the last flu shot Rite Aid had on my 23rd sobriety anniversary in mid-January, dodged the viral bullet, but caught the secondary infection that’s killing the weak. I don’t think I’m in that category, but this is week three of industrial strength decongestant/cough suppressant and it can end any time. So it goes.

Don’t imagine I’m at death’s door, or that I’m not grateful for California’s fine medical care system. I’ve got the cutest little half moon of laparoscopy scars from breast bone to  pubic bone, well healed after eighteen months. Who knew having 1300ccs of fluid crowding my right kidney would cause all sorts of weird side effects? I guess there are worse things than being polycystic, but that surgery really should have been in 2014, not delayed till 2016.

 

A caution for the person who has just wandered in here. There is a precedent setting 1st Amendment case in Texas with my name on it – Rauhauser v. McGibney, and that’s just one vignette in what has been years of conflict with the Breitbart operation and their associates. What follows is what I’m willing to admit to publicly, that which does not expose methods and sources.

I more or less wrote a road novel about my adventures in 2008, which remains on DailyKos, but I’ve scrubbed the 600 photos that go with that 110,000 word road novel. Since then the Unintentional Cascades have continued, but conflict has muddied the trail. It’s been glorious, the places I’ve been, the things I’ve seen, the people I’ve met.

There was only one minor on the Nixon White House enemies list – and here we are, clowning around outside Chicago’s union station in August of 2009. I had no idea what I was getting into when I agreed to share a sleeper car to Pittsburg with this guy.

Ben Masel & Neal Rauhauser

There are other photos like this – if you take the time to look you might find ones of me talking with Chuck Grassley, or R. James Woolsey, or T. Boone Pickens. The one I’ve misplaced and which I’d truly like to get back is of Vince Bugliosi and I chatting in Naomi Wolf’s living room.

Time and space started to bend the year after that, as I became disinterested in people knowing where I was, who I was with, or what we were doing. I ran the streets of lower Manhattan during the fall of 2011 and spring of 2012, spending just as much time haunting MacPherson in D.C. Occupy Wall Street was a magical time … but it was the lip of what’s proved to be an endless rabbit hole.

There isn’t a lot of signal after that – a visit to a notary public in Urbana on St. Patrick’s Day in 2014, a string of photos in Manhattan Beach Thanksgiving of 2015, a public transit ticket from late September of 2017, somewhere in San Mateo county.

There are a few other things that will likely linger long after I am gone. The Neal Rauhauser LinkedIn profile is mine, the nealr Tumblr, the nealr Vimeo. I have admitted my role in the founding of the Conspiracy Brokers but you shouldn’t believe a word of what is on the other side of that link, let alone anything anyone else has to say – it was built to do this. I burned the rest of my social media on the 1st of February and I see no reason it’ll ever return.

The name of my Flickr account, avyakata, is a Pali word that means “question of an unanswered (or unanswerable) nature”.  If you still have unanswered questions, those who can prove they have legitimate access to that account are the ones who can best answer them.

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Featured post

Unintentional Cascades

I climbed the La Luz trail on the west side of Albuquerque’s Sandia Mountains on a mid-Summer Sunday in 2007. I’d been taking the Sandia Tram up above the 10,000′ mark nightly for a couple of weeks prior, getting ready for my third attempt on Colorado’s Mount Elbert. I came up short two years prior, getting altitude sickness at about the 13,000′ mark.

I thought, having spent hours above 10,000′ in the preceding weeks, I was ready to climb up, but at 8,850′, about nine miles in, I hit the wall. Every step upward felt like the worst hangover I’d ever had. so I turned back. I ran out of water three miles short of the tram station and stumbled in the lot dangerously dehydrated. I have not felt right since that day.

 

Looking Down La Luz From 8850'

Looking Down La Luz From 8850′

A year later, on June 11th, while being tested for multiple sclerosis, I was told I had Lyme disease antibodies. Four day later while hiking Chapel Falls, I was bit by a deer tick, I developed a spiral rash on my thigh, and since I had the sense to photograph how it progressed during my first course of antibiotics, I don’t have to spend too much time arguing with doctors about it.

Coming undone from polite society has been a rough ride, but in many ways I’ve been lucky to be discarded. I have gone where I wanted, photographing, writing, and digging into topics I’d have never mastered had I remained in the workforce. The cascade of changes has been … interesting, to say the least.

Chapel Falls 1st Cascade

Chapel Falls 1st Cascade

 

I owned a small engineering consulting firm and I was in New Mexico due to a network implementation for a Metaswitch customer. My business was voice, video, and data for small to medium service provides. I still employ the skills I developed during the decade I did that sort of thing, but the world has changed, so now it’s cloud hosting, VPNs, and Adversary Resistant Computing that fill my time, at least on the technology front.

Chapel Falls 2nd Cascade

Chapel Falls 2nd Cascade

I first got interested in counter-terrorism science in early 2009, thanks to Chet Uber, the founder of Project VIGILANT. That only lasted six months before that organization’s reckless operations became too much for me. But ever since then I’ve kept an eye on that area, developing a practice in the analysis of social networks and infrastructure.

Chapel Falls 3rd Cascade

Chapel Falls 3rd Cascade

I thought I could close the door on that unfortunate episode, now that Chelsea Manning is to be freed, but a month ago I published Fact Checking @LouiseMensch On @Wikileaks and this has led to one of those cascades of unintended consequences. A few days ago I made a California Legal Research Request and thanks to this someone with a big civil case noticed me, and after years of hourly engagements I just received my first big contingency case.

I’m still very interested in Dark Mountain’s Eight Principles Of Uncivilization, but constantly looking over my shoulder on behalf of our species is putting a crick in my neck. It’s time to focus on what’s in front of me and see if I am actually in a position to dig out from a decade of poor health.

 

I never approve comments from any of you to protect you from unwanted attention, but I want to take a moment to acknowledge the value of those occasional whispers, and the changes they bring.

 

Gamma Draconis Rising

The existential threats to our species put me in a mood to explore our origins over the last year or so. The search term ‘hominid’ is an entry point to those articles, and I wonder where our species will have it’s Wrangel Island moment, a nod to the last place mammoth survived.

As I noted in Atlantification & Other Horrors

 We are Children of Ice and Chaos

And a chance encounter last night led me to what might be the asteroid that triggered our species’ rise: the Eltanim Impact. The Earth was already cooling but there is a distinct possibility that this multi-kilometer body tipped the planet into the current Quarternary ice age. New readers should take the time to understand the proper definition of ‘ice age’ – a period in which the Earth has polar ice caps. The popular children’s movie series by this name depicts a glacial period, which are a feature of ice ages.

Eltanin asteroid impact site.

Eltanin asteroid impact site.

In What HAVE We Done? I noted that our species began with Homo Erectus, but I wonder if the disputed Homo Habilis, and the change the impact forced on them, might not be a better starting point.

Eltanin was named for the ship that discovered it, but the ship’s name is from a star, and it has another name – Gamma Draconis, found at the head of the constellation Draco. This star is currently 154 light years from Earth, but in 1.5 million years it will be just 28 light years away, and the brightest star in our sky.

 

But in not more than 1,500 years, this is what we’re going to face:

United Kingdom Sea Level 2017

United Kingdom Sea Level 2017

United Kingdom Seven Meter Sea Level Rise

United Kingdom Seven Meter Sea Level Rise

The loss of the Netherlands and much of Denmark are nothing compared to the drowning of Bangladesh and Vietnam, and these are just the geomorphology changes an alien visitor could detect from orbit. Consider what happens when those changes hit ultra-dense population areas.

Humans, A Billion At A Time

Humans, A Billion At A Time

Now factor in the thermal change and two chemistry changes.

The temperature change is simply going to make a large swath of the tropics uninhabitable. See that orange billion in south Asia? The ones that aren’t flooded out will simply be cooked – daytime temps of 45C (113F) or more are a frontier we can’t cross. This started in 2016 and it will escalate to the point where humans outside air conditioning will simply die.

The carbon dioxide in the atmosphere captures heat, but it’s also an air and ocean chemistry change.

Continuing our current level of CO2 emissions ensures a 20% decrease in human cognitive capability by the year 2100. Our current energy use is literally making us dumber. And it’s not just us, it’s affecting fish already.

Ocean acidification is the other killer in the mix. Our sea food chain rests on a foundation of organisms that use calcium carbonate for their exoskeletons. Our oceans are already acidified enough for oysters to have trouble and the steady flow of peer reviewed science in this area is almost frantic in its tone.

 

Anatomically modern humans have had a run of maybe a quarter million years, which puts us at the midpoint for the typical run of a hominid species. We can expect evolution, and the inevitable accompanying extinction, to visit our line two or three times between now and the time when Gamma Draconis comes to rule our skies.

The relict mammoth population on Wrangel Island suffered a genomic meltdown just prior to extinction. Humans have gone through one prior genetic bottleneck, which is mistakenly attributed to the Toba Eruption. I don’t think that will be the case this time; we’ll lose the tropics, we may see a full throttle nuclear exchange, perhaps between India and Pakistan, but as awful as that would be, there are simply too many of us, in too many places, for a full knockout punch.

 

So here’s to you, future hominid. You’ll be half my height, a third of my weight, and neither of us would last a year in each other’s native climate. I’m sure you’ll look up at Gamma Draconis and wonder what’s out there, without ever knowing I did, too, at a time when it seemed possible we might actually go and see for ourselves.

Firming Things Up

One of the big issues with renewables is the need for firming – production is intermittent while needs are more or less on a curve matching the human activity curve. Solar is a good match for air conditioning and heating in areas that are cold and sunny, hydro at large scale is good for dispatchable generation and can also serve as a baseload source in the right situation. But wind is famously finicky. So this article on compressed air storage is pretty exciting.

Hydro systems are often paired with pumped storage, where reservoirs are filled when power is available and used for peak generation, now Hydrostor is combining air and water for storage. The combination of wind, water, and suitable heights for pumped storage aren’t all that common, but places that have wind, water, and places where underground chambers can be built are much more available. This sounds really promising

According to Spector, “The Terra solution is highly customizable and allows customers to pick the power-to-energy ratio. For systems of 200 megawatts or more, VanWalleghem said, Hydrostor can deliver 6 to 8 hours of duration on a turnkey installed basis of $150 per kilowatt-hour.”

So $30 million gets a peaker plant that can store night generated wind in Texas, where capacity is such that sometimes operators have to pay the grid to haul excess power away, and it can be turned into $0.20/kwh peak electricity. Recover cost in 3,000 hours, if there are a hundred days of six hour peak heat in summers, that’s five years, and lifetimes on utility scale systems are measured in decades.

A 200 megawatt plant will support a western city of a hundred thousand, but it would be a much bigger deal here – Capetown, South Africa, with a population roughly five times that size.

Capetown

Capetown

Wind is a big deal in South Africa, almost no capacity in 2012, two gigawatts now, and another three gigawatts coming. I’m not sure what fifty five million there need in terms of power, life is very different than California. Our 2kw/house metric is much higher than their requirements, perhaps by a factor of ten.

Hydrostor’s work thus far has been with fresh water. When they do their first saltwater system I’ll get really interested. If there is a deep cavern into which salt water enters, that means there is natural pressure – which can be used for osmotic desalination or maybe a graphene system. South Africa could really use more fresh water.

South African Climate

South African Climate

 

Hopefully we’ve managed to avoid War With North Korea, at least for this weekend, but I’m still thinking about Functional Triage. I like South Africa’s industrialization and their isolation from the problems in the northern hemisphere. They need to focus on renewable investments, but with the added calculus that things up north might go irreparably sideways, as we came so near to doing this weekend.

 

War With North Korea

SCROTUS Donald Trump is rushing pell mell into a confrontation with North Korea. I spent a little time reading on their capabilities in an effort to understand precisely how foolish this really is. First, a little geography: The capital of the north, Pyongyang, is the little burg at the upper left, while the south’s capital, Seoul, is a massive metropolis. The distance from the DMZ to the large highway ringing the city is about twenty miles.

Korean DMZ

Korean DMZ

North Korea has a massive military, but much of their equipment is very dated. Their best tanks are derivatives of the middle Cold War era Soviet T-72, while South Korea has a derivative of the U.S. M1 Abrams which is being replaced by a brand new indigenous design, the K2 Black Panther.

The north can strike Seoul from behind the DMZ using the Koksan self propelled gun, but this open top vehicle is an up-gunned World War II design. Contrast that with the Samsung K9 Thunder, today’s top global choice for the standard 155mm NATO artillery round. This mobile howitzer is notable for its companion reloading vehicle, the K10. They can dock and reload without opening up, an advantage that no other system offers.

The K-21 IFV is South Korea’s latest light armor platform. Most vehicles in this class are armed with 25mm or 30mm guns, but the K-21 packs a domestic 40mm design that apparently evolved from the venerable Bofors 40mm. A trend across the industry, it’s also got rubber tracks rather than steel, which are lighter, quieter, and easier on the crew. An up-gunned version carrying a 105mm NATO standard caliber weapon can defeat all but the newest of the North Korean tanks.

 

I follow military acquisitions and could go on about this stuff all day, but we’ll stop here, noting that South Korea is arguable the top global armored vehicle builder, maintaining qualitative superiority in any type they construct and numerical parity with the front line systems of the DPRK.

U.S. Forces Korea have also been continuously present since the fighting ended in 1953, with on average 28,500 troops present at any given time. Some times we post tripwire forces, which this command clearly is, but it also packs a serious punch of its own.

 

What Trump is focused on is the upcoming nuclear test, which may happen on April 15th. The test location is in the far northeast of the country, far away from nosy southerners, and close to Japan, another country on the DPRK’s list of enemies. Assuming that there is a U.S. or Chinese strike that fully eliminates DPRK’s nuclear weapons, we’re still going to have a conventional mess on the DMZ, just like things were in the early 1950s. I already covered some of the regional implications in And Yet There Are Faster Ways To Die.

If the Chinese decide to strike North Korea’s nuclear weapons they can also basically shut the country down, as they are the source of 90% of the DPRK’s oil imports. If the U.S. acts unilaterally and offends the Chinese, that oil keeps flowing and things could drag on for a while.

We really don’t to trigger this. North Korea is a Hermit Kingdom with a third generation leader who is just thirty three years old. We can’t predict what they will do but even with a technically inferior army they are close enough to Seoul to make an incursion that will leave a lot of casualties, both civilian and military.

 

Part of the reason the Cold War ended was Desert Storm. Iraq’s army had much experience from the eight year Iran-Iraq War and modern Soviet equipment. Our forces rolled right over them in five short weeks. Korea would be harder due to proximity to population areas and good terrain for defense.

But a battle with North Korea today isn’t going to have the same impact in terms of demonstrating superiority of western weapons systems to the point it reorders the world order. China is rising economically and militarily, a battle in their back yard will just encourage faster production.

 

I see no news about any test in North Korea today. Hopefully we’ve navigated around this particular quagmire and the rumors of imminent arrests for some of Trump’s entourage prove to be true, which should put a damper on his adventurous nature.

And Yet There Are Faster Ways To Die

Yesterday’s Twitter hissy fit over our use of a GBU-43/B MOAB in Afghanistan combined with the friction with North Korea, as reported in the amazingly well connected @KGSNightWatch, set me to thinking about quicker means for us to end ourselves than the slow roast we’ve already set in motion.

We had already detonated 2,053 nuclear weapons by 1998 but since the 1963 Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty all tests have been underground, including the five North Korean tests that happened after this video ends.

We got plain scared by the results of the 1954 Castle Bravo test, a six megaton test that yielded fifteen, because we didn’t understand there was a fusion path for lithium 7, and only nine short years later the world decided air/space testing was a Really Bad Idea™.

 

Since then, we’ve shifted to constraining ourselves to developing stuff that inhibits others delivering weapons. Basically we have about three dozen Ground Based Interceptors on the west coast and the trend seems to be counting on Aegis Combat Systems and the RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 to knock down uninvited ballistic missiles.

Missile Defense Systems

Missile Defense Systems

This missile defense stuff is all still really theoretical. Tests are few, expensive, and results have been mixed. We don’t really have a plan for submarine launched cruise missiles but the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty eliminated whole classes of weapons.

But North Korea is not a signatory to any of these treaties and they are slowly standing up a nuclear capability. This happened while we were naming them part of the Axis of Evil and blundering into Bush’s adventure in Iraq. Like a Cape buffalo surrounded by lions, we focused on one and the others got up to things we didn’t see coming.

 

North Korea can’t nuke San Francisco. They can’t nuke Honolulu. They can maybe hit 7th Fleet HQ at the mouth of Tokyo Bay. Their current best has a yield equal to the weapons the U.S. produced in 1945.

Yokosuka 20 Kiloton Strike

Yokosuka 20 Kiloton Strike (NUKEMAP)

I have zero confidence that Little Fingers has the right moves given that the DPRK is surely going to test another nuclear weapon tomorrow. China has moved six divisions of troops to its border with North Korea with the announced intent of ensuring that there are not a flood of refugees crossing their border. They also have a credible plan to put an end to North Korea’s test facilities, which is something the U.S. and South Korea lack.

Another grandstanding effort, like the theatrical strike against a forewarned Syrian airfield, or the drop of a MOAB in Afghanistan, seems likely. The most foolish step would be treating this as a chance to employ a B-61 Dial-A-Yield nuke, specifically the B-61 Mod 11 bunker buster.

 

The assessment of the premier geopolitical threat monitor is simple and clear:

NightWatch concurs with the judgment that the North Koreans are not bluffing about retaliating for any kind of attack against them.

The scariest part of all of this? America’s recto-cranial inversion, which predates Little Fingers, keeps us strutting like the only superpower, but ignoring stuff where we don’t have a direct interface. The relationship between India (110 nukes) and Pakistan (130 nukes) is always some flavor of tense, but in recent months there have been reports in Night Watch that indicate they went right up to the red line of a rapidly evolving ground war and strong potential for an exchange.

Now take a look at this China-centric population cartogram.They have four neighbors with nuclear weapons, two are at each other’s throats, the U.S. is showing strong signs of moving against North Korea, and doing so because we have a leader as isolated and strange as Kim thanks to meddling from nuclear armed neighbor number four.

China-centric Population Cartogram

China-centric Population Cartogram

 

There is no such thing as a limited nuclear exchange where India and Pakistan are concerned. If they each show some restraint and only use half of their arsenals we lose half of our ozone layer, a couple years of Canadian and Russia wheat production, and the initial ten million killed directly would be joined by another billion famine victims.

These projections stop where the effects of smoke in the atmosphere end. A billion dead of starvation are the unlucky one seventh when all of us are facing that possibility. We are already precariously balanced when it comes to food, we lose all of the Mideast and North Africa in this scenario, those places teeter on the edge of ungovernability now when there are relatively minor disturbances in wheat supplies.

 

The area south of Africa’s Great Green Wall would be the best place to ride out such a catastrophe, far away from fallout of all sorts, from economic to political to radioactive.

Sobering, isn’t it? We already have the means to create an extinction level event for our species and we are stumbling that direction, led by a man with a psychopath’s regard for cause and effect.

East Beringia Genetic Continuity

Genetic Continuity In East Beringia

Genetic Continuity In East Beringia

Study reveals 10,000 years of genetic continuity in northwest North America is an interesting article, but I’d quibble with the regional description – because it overlaps with East Beringia.

We also know that we’re A Hundred Centuries Off – humans have been in this area for 24,000 years, not the 14,000 year number previously cited. That’s a massive gap between the oldest human fossil and the tiny snippet of human activity from 22,000 BC – some linear cut marks inside the jaw bone of a horse, made during the butchering process.

 

Time matters and so do names. Alaska? Less than sixty years old. Canada? A century and a half. United States? Less than two and a half centuries and given what I see on the news I wonder if we’re going to make that mark, or if internal pressures are going to cause us to fly to bits.

But cultures have been going extinct here from the minute our species first crossed from Asia. We know less about the Americans because five hundred years ago their network contacted the Europeans, and when two large networks collide one will come to dominate the other. Among writing systems that were here, we’ve only managed to decipher Mayan.

Europeans have left marks on the Americas that time will find difficult to erase, at least not without another planet wide glaciation, and that would take the right combination of plate tectonics and Earth orbit, perhaps one we’ll never reach again.

Examples include the Panama Canal, which isn’t a natural waterway, so it won’t fill with sediment.  Bingham Canyon Mine‘s pit is three square miles and over half a mile deep, with no natural explanation. But whomever our successors might be, they will marvel over the Crazy Horse Memorial. I saw this in person nearly forty years ago and from this satellite image it seems they’ve made some progress.

Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse Memorial

 

What enduring mark(s) have I left on this planet?

Certainly not any of my writing; this is all electronic ephemera, nothing I’ve done in this century has been committed to print. A vast majority of our culture exists as ones and zeroes on magnetic media. As the size and speed of the internet grow, more and more of the central material lives in dynamic ram. Pull the plug, say with an electromagnetic pulse from a high altitude multi-megaton warhead, and it’s just gone.

Taking a few moments to think on it, the only thing that’s really going to outlast me are unnecessarily durable goods from our consumer society. How many plastic bags have I received and promptly discarded in my fifty years on this planet? Certainly one a day, till we all got hip to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch a few years ago. This concept of discarding first came up in a symbolic fashion in Societal Simulacra’s Rest Frame.

Maybe I should give up this blogging and teach myself flint knapping. I can start making Clovis points and tossing them into random caves in the area, putting my own spin on archeology here.